Lonewolf – Division Hades (Massacre Records)Friday, 23rd October 2020
A long-running staple of the French heavy metal scene for decades, Lonewolf returns for their tenth studio record Division Hades. Choosing to mark this special occasion in a band’s career, those consumers who want an expansive look at the band can purchase a bonus CD if they want the digipak edition, entitled Into the Past We Ride that features old/rare re-recordings of material spanning their early demo tapes up to the first two albums of their discography. Expect different musicians on both offerings – the new album introducing latest second guitarist Damien Capolongo, while the bonus material has former bassist Dryss Boulmedais on bass, guitar and lead guitar – although main members drummer Bubu Brunner and vocalist/guitarist Jens Börner appear on both. Overall though, the band’s Teutonic-driven classic songwriting and performance stance hasn’t altered much over the years – featuring plenty of catchy guitar harmonies, gang-infused choruses, and main musical moments that align with those who love Running Wild and Grave Digger from their 80’s/90’s-eras.
Double kick/power grooves punch through at various speeds, from the steady mid-tempo nature of the title cut on through to the uplifting quick hitting “Alive” where the cultural guitar lines layer brilliantly against the circular riffing. “Manilla Shark” pays tribute to the fallen Mark Shelton of Manilla Road, who we tragically lost following an appearance at Headbangers Open Air a couple of years back – the nature of the main riffs and the lyrical content keeping in line the spirit and epic nature of the band. The nine-minute plus epic “Drowned in Black” starts in a calm manner with distant vocal melodies and clean guitar mechanics, before picking up the electric pace a la Running Wild, the galloping tempo and bass/guitar interplay giving the song an off to war nuance, Bubu flexing his chops throughout with interesting fills and the instrumental section taking on a medieval/semi-folk stance. The re-recordings probably gain better tones and production values in 2020 than they did back in the day – and give the listener a peak into the progress Lonewolf has made as songwriters over the years. Songs like “Towards the Light” and “Erik the Red” reinforce the band’s love for Grave Digger and Running Wild – Jens as a singer could be a clear mirror to Chris B. of Grave Digger in terms of roughness and enunciation/delivery.
Lonewolf isn’t going to stand head and shoulders above the tried and true kings of classic speed/heavy metal. Division Hades gets the job done in terms of keeping the old guard happy – and that’s what you sometimes want in the heavy metal category, as rocking the boat could capsize your following.